Monday, 19 March 2012
Stand up for good self-publishers - by Roz Morris
Within the world of blogging, we’re mature about self-publishing. We know to look beyond the term 'self-pub' or 'indie' and to judge a book by its quality.
But elsewhere, all is not so enlightened. When self-publishing is discussed on, say, the books blog of the Guardian newspaper, readers leave comments like this:
‘Self-publishers are the literary equivalent of those mad people on the auditions episodes of TV talent shows. Every self-publisher I've ever come across has been operating at this delusional standard. These onanists are the enemies of literature, and a centuries-old heritage of the published written word, people who, ultimately, have an utter self-obsessed contempt for the reader, whether they realise as much or not...'
Onanists? Oh no you don’t. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated rant. It’s what happens whenever a national newspaper runs a piece that (pardon me) touches on self-publishing. This is how the ‘outside world’ discusses self-publishing.
(If you’re wondering if I read all this and took it meekly, I didn’t. I took each of these jerks to task, but they wanted their opinions stroked, not torn into little pieces. And they assumed that after all my self-publishing I’d gone blind anyway.)
It’s no use hauling out The Da Vinci Code to point out how bad some conventionally published books are. That’s used as proof that indies must be worse. All of us. That same commenter again:
'No matter how "bad" mainstream publishing has become, no matter how much "garbage" (garbage with a market, remember) it puts out, it will never be as bad as 99% of the self-published stuff out there.’
Now he does have a point that much self-published work is unprofessional. But 99%? To a layman that might as well be 100%. Which is a problem.
They’re just hysterical
Perhaps the ordinary reader is more easy-going? I think not - they have good reason to believe the hysteria. Because most of them think it’s easy to get published anyway.
How many times has someone said to you 'I'm writing a book and I might get it published’? Most people think that if only they finish a book, a publisher will take them automatically.
So if someone ‘can’t get a publisher’, they must be real scum.
We’re amateurs, apparently
Even if our raw material is good, we’re too raw. Apparently we’re ignorant of the proper production process (look here, and yes if you check the comments I told them off too.)
This is rubbish. Many of us have been around publishing a long time and know what should be done to a manuscript. To take me as an example, I’ve spent the past 20 years making books. I’ve commissioned, copy edited, proofread, passed for press, trained people - and run editorial departments. I’ve also, rather boringly, been given industry awards for it - so I know what needs to be done to a book. And I see a lot of self-publishers who make it their business to learn what experts they need. But to the indie-haters, we’re running naked and undisciplined, tossing off words willy nilly.
Our reviews are rigged
If we self-publishers point to our reviews, they’re dismissed as a put-up job. Here’s another jerk:
‘most indie writers indulge in a mutual b/s festival of "I'll give your book 5 stars if you give mine 5 stars", with no shame whatsoever. The slushpile is out there for everyone to see and pay for, but it's covered in a thickening layer of marketing sh*t.’
Charming. As if that doesn’t happen in regular publishing anyway. For the record, my reviews are bona fide, and have come from people I never knew were reading my books.
We’re average and forgettable
The other day I heard an editor from Bloomsbury talking about midlist writers and publishing economics. She was asked if there was a danger that ‘the next Graham Greene’ might languish forever in the reject pile. Oh no, she said. If they’re good enough and they persist for long enough they rise to the top eventually.
If that woman had walked in front of my car at that moment, she would have been roadkill. That is a big, fat lie. It has never been true in publishing or any other artistic endeavour. Ask Van Gogh. But because of such careless talk, the public believes things like this: (the Guardian again):‘Even the best self-published books are nothing to write home about. There are no classics, no literary giants, no contributions to our cultural heritage being missed by the current system.’
Suck on that, all you writers who were rejected or kept in limbo because you were too original. Or as John Logan said on this blog recently:
I don’t believe in demonising publishers. I know they’re a business, and a precarious, unpredictable one. But I do believe in fairness.
There is too much misinformation about self-publishers. This means our books are not getting a fair hearing.
Musicians aren’t vilified for publishing their own music.
Shakespeare wasn’t persecuted for having his own theatre company. Why do writers get treated like this?
We must fight this ignorance. We won't change minds overnight, but we can all change a lot together.
Correct these sweeping misapprehensions when you see them. If you read a self-published book that is as good as a conventionally published book, tell your friends, tell your blog readers, tell your people on Goodreads or Amazon to check it out.
Stand up for good self-publishers.
Thanks for pics Cityhunter12, Elsie esq, anyjazz65, Gastev
Roz Morris is a bestselling ghostwriter and book doctor. She blogs at www.nailyournovel.com and has a double life on Twitter; for writing advice follow her as @dirtywhitecandy, for more normal chit-chat try her on @ByRozMorris.
As well as being the secret author of many titles, she has two books written as herself: Nail Your Novel - Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence, and a novel My Memories of a Future Life. You can listen to an audio of the first 4 chapters of the novel here.